I am enamored with polymer clay. I don't remember when I discovered it, it might have been years ago when I watched Carol Duval on TV. I guess I'm dating myself, but oh well. Anyways, I started playing with polymer clay.
Way back in the stone age, the only type clay I could find, before the intervention of widespread internet shopping, was Sculpey, which while it is a good clay, it's not particularly strong and it is a relatively soft. Then I found Fimo, which I believe is made in Germany. Fimo is a tough clay in more ways than one. It is sturdy when baked but I found it to be an exercise in frustration to work with.
The first time I worked with Fimo, now this was years ago, it crumbled into a million itty bitty bits. I was picking up pieces of Fimo for days and cursing it the whole time. Then I got the brilliant idea of mixing in some liquid translucent polymer clay. That worked, after a fashion, but it took hours and hours of kneading and adding more liquid clay. It was messy and if I scratched my nose without thinking, I ended up with liquid clay smeared across my face! I would have chucked the whole mess against the wall but I was afraid of the mess it would make and I would have to clean it up. I abandoned Fimo for quite some time, after that. I understand that they revamped the formula to make it easier to work with but I still find it an exercise in frustration.
Then came Premo. Made by Sculpey, it's sturdier than the original but easier to condition than Fimo. I thought I was in heaven. I could create my pieces and not have to worry as much about the distortion that occurred with the softer clay. And I didn't have to give myself carpal tunnel while doing it! Perfect!
So there I was, happily kneading and creating until one day I happened upon another polymer clay artist's website. While reading the description of one of her pieces I noticed that she mentioned that her pieces were made of jewelry grade polymer clay. What was this?! Jewelry grade polymer clay??!! What had I been using all these years to make my pieces, chopped liver? I make jewelry, I use polymer clay, therefore the clay I was using must be jewelry grade, right?
Now, I'm naturally curious by nature, so I had to search for this elusive element. I scoured the web, trying to find this wonder clay. No luck! Almost every link for jewelry grade polymer clay had a number of different brands. I suppose I could have emailed this polymer clay artist and asked her, but some people are touchy about questions about their art and I don't take rejection well.
But during my search, I came upon a clay with the lofty name of Pardo Professional Art Clay. Well, being the professional that I am, I thought, this is perfect for me! I guess there is another version of Pardo which has beeswax added to it, not a good thing, in my opinion, and it was deemed too soft by the artists who tried it. But the professional clay does not.
Okay, I thought, I'll order some and try it out. That's when I came across a reference that mentioned using Pardo Professional Art Clay and alcohol inks. I must mention here that I'm a compulsive shopper when it comes to crafts. If I see something that piques my interest, I often buy it, even though I have no idea, at the time, what I'll use it for. As a consequence, I have plastic tubs full of "carp" that I've bought but never used. One such purchase was some alcohol inks. I bought them when I was making greeting cards and I thought they might be interesting to use. But since I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, I lost interest in card making before I got to use the inks.
Now to the real reason for this post! Pardo Professional Art Clay and alcohol inks! I've used alcohol inks with Premo translucent clay with varying degrees of success. Premo tends to get sticky when mixed with the inks and I've had more success mixing in small bits of colored clay. So I sent for some PPAC(Pardo Professional Art Clay) Since acronyms are all the rage, I thought I'd make up my own! Plus I'm tired of typing out Pardo Professional Art Clay every time I mention it! Anyway, the same website had a selection of alcohol inks, as well, so I ordered more of those, since the package I bought years ago only had three different colors.
These are Tim Holtz alcohol inks. They have wonderful names like Wild Plum, Butterscotch and Pesto and come in little squeeze bottles. I couldn't wait! I watched and read tutorials on using alcohol inks with polymer clay while I waited for my package to arrive. What I neglected to assimilate was the fact that you should wear some sort of protective clothing while using these inks. I don't know how I manage to miss this salient fact but I did. Maybe I was just so excited to get started.
When my PPAC package arrived, I tore it open and spilled the contents onto my workbench. I conditioned the clay by kneading, let me mention that PPAC is not as easy to condition as Premo, but not as hard as the original Fimo, so I had to work at it a bit. I flattened out the clay by running it through my pasta machine at the thickest setting. I added a few drops of alcohol inks and carefully folded the edges of the clay around it. Well, I guess I wasn't careful enough. When I started to squeeze the clay to mix it, ink shot out of the little square of clay and all over my shirt, my workbench and my hands! It's a good thing my dog was on the other side of the room, otherwise he would have become know as Watermelon (the color I used first) rather than Finn!
Luckily, my clothes were the old ones I use for working and my workbench is so stained with all and sundry that a few more stains didn't matter. My hands, on the other hand, were stained a lovely shade of pink for days! An elderly woman at the market actually asked if that was a new fad when she saw my hands! I learned my lesson after that and always use latex gloves when working with alcohol inks. And one other thing I've found, the color is not easily discernible with PPAC until you actually cure the clay. I was trying to make an orangey red clay for some little turtles beads. I mixed watermelon and butterscotch ink into the clay. This is what it looks like before baking, a kind of peachy brown:
This is after baking. I added a touch of gold mica powder mixed with translucent polymer clay and applied it to each segment of the turtle's shell.
I'd like to add that if you spread the ink on a slab of clay and let it dry, it's much easier to incorporate the color. Less messy as well!